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Casey pulls no punches but will anything change?

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Pic Credit: Neil Moralee/Flickr
Pic Credit: Neil Moralee/Flickr

This is a cross-post from Sedaa


A much-awaited report which contains no big surprises received reactions that were entirely predictable.

From segregation and misogyny, to the child grooming gangs and Sharia councils, Dame Louise Casey’s lengthy, evidence-based report pulls no punches.

Towns and cities with high Muslim populations, such as Oldham, Rochdale, Blackburn and Bradford are mentioned as places of concern.

Some of them are areas with large numbers of people who came from Pakistani-administered Kashmir, particularly the rural region of Mirpur. They came to the former mill-towns which now suffer from industrial decline and high levels of deprivation.

Parents still ship their children ‘back home’ to get married, creating ghettos and a “first generation in every generation problem”.

Immigration itself is not a bad thing. The problem is when large numbers of immigrants arrive into areas where there are already large numbers of people from the same background. There is less of an incentive to integrate and learn English if most people in your neighbourhood are going to be from the same village in Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Last week’s Policy Exchange survey “Unsettled Belonging” showed Muslims overwhelmingly identify with Britain. And there is a hope that Muslims will become more liberal and secular. But if Muslims choose to live in areas with a high Muslim population, those who are more liberal or non religious will find it difficult to express their views openly, for fear of being attacked. Islamists benefit from this type of environment, as they can say they are trying to cater for the growing Muslim population – remember the Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham.

Of course, some have suggested that “white people need to integrate too”. The report says:

“In recent decades, it appears that in some respects, rather than becoming more of a classless society, sections of white working class Britain have become more isolated from the rest of the country and the rest of the white British population.”

White British boys are falling behind students from other ethnic backgrounds, which will no doubt only help foster the narrative that no one cares about the white population. It partly explain why we have seen Britain voting to leave the European Union and the rise of parties such as UKIP.

In Oldham, two schools with one dominant ethnic group were merged to form one large school. The majority white Counthill School and majority Pakistani Breezehill School became the Waterhead Academy. Though the school is not doing so well academically it is helping bridge the divide among two communities.

If this model can be replicated then this can help community cohesion, as secondary schools tend to be places where young people from different backgrounds will mix. But there is no point in the Government talking about the need to end segregation if it is continuing to approve the creation of faith schools.

The report also finds – again, to no one’s surprise – that Muslims tend to marry spouses from abroad, particularly Pakistan.

But even if those people marry their fellow Brits, it is more likely to be someone from their “own community” – that is to say, someone who is either related to them or has links to the same village/town in their parents’ country of origin. So communities are hardly becoming more diverse.

Dame Louise also mentions Sharia ‘courts’ and the fact that many Muslim women are in unregistered marriages, which leaves them vulnerable. Critics of the report claim Muslim women are unfairly targeted in the review. Let’s admit it. Muslim women do face more barriers – mostly from their own communities.

When Muslim women themselves are saying that they are restricted by their own spouses or families, then why is it all being dismissed as being ‘Islamophobic’? When Muslim – and south Asian women in general – used to speak out against forced marriages, or African women were speaking out against female genital mutilation, were they also being racist and ‘Islamophobic’?

An important part of the review, which has been missed by most, is the reference to Prevent, which was introduced following the July 7, 2005 attacks on London as part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST.

Dame Louise talks about the anti-Prevent lobby who “appear to have an agenda to turn British Muslims against Britain”.  The report states:

“These individuals and organisations claim to be advocating on behalf of Muslims and protecting them from discrimination. We repeatedly invited people we met who belonged to these groups, or who held similarly critical views, to suggest alternative approaches.  We got nothing in return.”

Well that’s a surprise…

The report tackles the myths behind some of the stories which were very critical of Prevent.

Dame Louise writes about the infamous “terrorist house” case, in which Lancashire Police were reported to have interviewed a pupil referred to Prevent, after he had simply misspelled “terraced house” as “terrorist house” in a class exercise.

In fact, the pupil had also written that “I hate it when my uncle hits me”.  The teacher quite appropriately and acting in the best interests of the child, raised a concern.  A social worker and neighbourhood police officer then visited the family and concluded that no further action was required.  No referral to Prevent was ever made.  No Prevent officers were involved and Lancashire Police rightly maintain that they and the school acted responsibly and proportionately.

In an earlier case in May 2015, the parents of a 14 year-old boy started legal action after their son was questioned following a French lesson in which he had been talking about “eco-terrorists”.  After the lesson, he was reported to have been taken out of class and asked whether he was affiliated with ISIS.  His parents sought a Judicial Review, saying he had been discriminated against because of his Muslim background.

The truth is that the pupil was never referred to Prevent or Child Safeguarding (nor removed from the class), and there was no police involvement.  A concern about the boy was correctly raised by a teacher to the school’s Designated Child Protection Officer, who spoke to the pupil in an interview two days later which included asking whether he had “heard of Isis”. The Judicial Review was thrown out of court as totally without merit.

Yet the latter is still used as an excuse to bash Prevent and the boy’s mother, Ifhat Smith, still tells this story to anyone who will listen, despite her dubious links.

It is important that we discuss the issues mentioned in the report and the problems with segregation and mass immigration, rather than denouncing it all as ‘racist’. Indeed, some Muslim commentators have come out with the usual accusations of racism and Islamophobia; they are only interested in being defensive rather than actually coming up with any solutions.

No wonder we are having the same debate today as we were ten years ago. We’ve had similar reports in the past and I have no doubt we will have more in the future, saying the same things. There is little point in recommending what should happen now because it will only fall on deaf ears. Until there is a real political will to actually do something then nothing will change. In the meantime, I await the next report.


A clarification of my diary from Pakistan

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My blog of Pakistan/Azad Jammu Kashmir went down really well with a lot of people that I know (and people I don’t know) but some Pakistani journalist on Twitter read it and decided that it provided “no insight and is racist”. Racist! He and a few other Pakistanis took offense to what I had written. Very maturely, he also decided not to direct these comments at me, but make rather nasty and snide comments to other people.

Not that I need to defend my own opinions, or apologise for what I’ve experienced, but I thought I’d write a very short blog in response to what has been said.

Accusation no.1: “No insight” – my diary was not intended to be an insight into Pakistan or AJK or even a deep analysis of a very complex region.  Yes, I decided to publish what I saw and observed but it’s just a diary – end of. I even said as much. However, someone on Twitter who follows me, whose family also happen to be from Bhimber, AJK, said that my diary had reflected exactly what he had seen and shared it on his Facebook.

Accusation no.2: “Racist” – Ah yes, when in doubt, just cry ‘racism’. This is by far the dumbest comment and I won’t really bother responding to that.

Accusation no.3: “She seemed disappointed that it was not Birmingham” – I am not from Birmingham, nor have I ever even been to Birmingham! (As a journalist, you should really have researched me better) It would also be pretty dumb of me to expect a region in south Asia to be like England.

Accusation no.4: “She didn’t even try to enjoy it – You try enjoying yourself when you are stuck in the house for 10 days straight, with nothing to do and no one to talk to. Also, if this journalist had bothered reading the blog properly, he would have read that I HAD indeed enjoyed part of my trip when I was in Lahore. I don’t hate AJK, I just hate the fact that my family never took me anywhere, as there are some amazing places to see in Kashmir.


I asked this journalist to email me with any comments as I was happy to answer any questions, but instead he decided that he would rather make comments behind my back instead of discussing it. Mature.

I used to enjoy going back to AJK because that is where my grandparents were from. Unfortunately, they are no longer with us, so as a result I do not feel connected to that place as I once did.

Also, in 2009, I had a horrendous experience in the village, which I will not go into, but let’s just say it left me with awful memories. Some of the people there who I thought were friends and allies treated my grandfather like dirt, especially when he became ill and hospitalised, so I severely dislike going back to schmooze with those very people. You try spending time with people who have done such horrible things and then tell me that I did not ‘make an effort’.

At the end of the day, I’ll say what the bloody hell I like. I do not owe anybody an apology. These are my own views and my own experiences – they’re very subjective and very personal, so why should I tailor them to appease everyone? If your experience of Pakistan or AJK is wonderful, then good for you – but mine is very different.

To the rest of you, thank you for reading my blogs and sharing your wonderful comments. I really appreciate it.

Written by Iram Ramzan

March 10, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Earn 25k if you want to bring a spouse from ‘back home’

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A few women, with whom I was tweeting, were discussing the subject of marrying a foreign-born spouse which they believe, and I concur, is more difficult for women than men (differences in education and mentality, etc.).

They also believe that the legislation proposed in 2011 by the government, along with raising the age of both parties to 21, before being able to bring over a foreign spouse would deter parents from marrying someone from ‘back home’ i.e. the indian subcontinent.

The government’s migration advisory committee recommended that those wishing to bring a spouse or child to live in Britain on a family visa should have a minimum salary before tax of between £18,700 and £25,700 to ensure a burden is not placed on the state.

The largest group of people banned from coming to Britain under the proposal would be women from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Although the US ranks third in the list of countries of origin of family visas, it is thought most sponsors would qualify under the new salary thresholds. Almost 50,000 family visas are granted to immediate relatives of British residents every year.

It is a start, that I will admit. Certainly it will prevent what my friends will call ‘rudeboys’ on the dole from bringin over a spouse from abroad.

But I do not actually think it will change that much. Female Genital Mutilation is banned in Egypt and yet the custom is still prevalent in the country. Why? Because it is not not just legislation we need to change, but people’s mentalities.

Asian parents in this country still believe that a foreign-born spouse would make an ideal partner for their child, not on the grounds of compatibility, but because of family honour. After all, what better way to strengthen one’s family ties than marriage?

This is not restricted to the parents. There are still many Asian men, born and brought up here, who believe that woman from ‘back home’ make better wives: they’re less likely to challenge their husbands and his ways, and they’ll stay at home to look after their ageing in-laws.British born Asian girls, in their eyes, are all whores and have forgotten their ‘roots’.

The legislation that was brought in to raise the age limit of anyone calling over a spouse to 21 did not actually deter such marraiges. Too often I have seen girls in the UK (key word being ‘girls’) being married in a ceremony in Pakistan or Bangladesh (almost always to a cousin) and then going back to the UK and waiting several years before they can call their spouse over.

As a result, the girls are stuck in limbo. They cannot move to their husband’s home (which is the tradition) because guess what – he lives abroad. So they stay in their parent’s homes, married but not quite married-off.

This is why legislation, in my opinion, will change little. Far from deterring parents from marrying their children to a cousin in their own homeleand, parents and perhaps even the spouses, will think, ‘What’s a few more years in waiting, we can save up money in the meantime’.

Which brings me to another issue, which is that of the girls/women here supporting their foreign husbands. It is simply unfair. And considering South Asian cultures ‘pride’ themselves on retaining traditional male/female roles, is it not hypocritical for the women to be supporting the men financially while still expected to fulfil ‘traditional’ domestic role too? 

So while the legislation is a start, I do not believe it will change much. Legislation is not enough when it is the people’s mentalities that need to be changed first. And changing mentalities is a lot harder to do.

Written by Iram Ramzan

May 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Posted in politics, south asian, UK

Tagged with ,

Pervez Musharraf – how not to make a comeback

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There are efforts to scare me, but these people don’t know that I’m not among the afraid”, said Pervez Musharraf to a rally of about 8,000 supporters in the commercial centre Karachi via videolink from Dubai.

For someone who insists he is ‘not scared of anyone’, ex Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has spent the past few years in exile, hiding away, and hiding behind Saudi Arabia, seeking their guarantees that he would not be detained once he lands in Pakistan.

He said he will return to the country at the end of January to contest elections, despite an announcement by prosecutors that he will be arrested for the killing of former premier Benazir Bhutto upon arrival.

Musharraf has promised to make a comeback, one worthy of Rocky Balboa’s I expect, but will it turn into a dull nostalgia trip? Already it seems so, he does reiterate how great the economy was during his time in office. But unfortunately, he has made a few blunders.

The first was to suggest Pakistan should be open to the idea of establishing relations with Israel. Perhaps Musharraf, in all those long, three years of exile in Britain, has forgotten just what Pakistanis’ attitudes are towards Israel. Clue: they’re not amicable.

He was correct when stating that Pakistan and Israel are both ‘ideological’ states, but that is where the similarity ends. If the Arab Spring has taught us anything, it is that the Muslim world is tired of foreign interference from the United States and its favourable stance towards Israel, which brings me on to my second point.

Running to the US and the Saudis will also scupper any chance he may have in the elections. The Saudi royal family has often played the role of an arbitrator in Pakistan’s domestic politics.

It played a key role in facilitating a deal whereby former premier Nawaz Sharif was allowed to leave Pakistan after he was deposed in a military coup led by Musharraf in 1999 and lived in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Already a state in turmoil, the last thing Pakistan needs is even more Saudi influence, which has been detrimental to its society. Musharraf has underestimated Imran Khan, leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, perhaps even dismissed him as a credible opponent, but where Khan gains a lot of support with the voters is with the notion that ‘outside interference’ needs to end.

Despite the odds, Musharraf’s desire to return is based on his belief that he alone can “save” Pakistan. During his speech to supporters on Sunday, Musharraf repeated that he provided strong economic growth and foreign investment during his presidency, and they could expect more of the same.

But do the people want him back?  It looked possible maybe two years ago, but that was before Imran Khan gained popularity in the polls. Like Musharraf, he is a ‘saviour’, someone to ‘rescue’ Pakistan.

Pakistani Journalist Ayaz Amir reckons Musharraf’s electoral chances are ‘not very bright’, but “he hinks the people of Pakistan are waiting for him and that he’s the Messiah. He’s a person who is really a part of Pakistan’s yesterday, but he thinks he’s the future of Pakistan”.

The media is in a frenz yover the possible arrest of Musharraf but it seems unlikely to happen. If, and that is a big if, he is arrested as soon as he lands in Pakistan, it won’t be for long.

American-Pakistani businessman Raza Bokhari, one of Musharraf’s close associates, is expected to meet US Ambassador Cameron Munter in Islamabad to prevent this. Musharraf is not stupid; he has been biding his time in exile and rallying international support to prevent this from happening. Why else would he delay his return and refuse to give a precise date?

Pakistan is a country where the tail, i.e. the military, wags the dog. If you’re not in with the army you may as well be out. The army will be divided over their former ruler and their current leader; even Khan’s support within the army is unpredictable. Either way, Pakistan is definitely one to watch this year.

Written by Iram Ramzan

January 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

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